Lake Cowichan, BC—A woman who was given six months to live in 2006 has surprised doctors and family members alike by living well past the usual life expectancy for malignant mesothelioma.
When Marie Augustine was diagnosed with the rare disease, which is almost always connected to asbestos exposure, she didn’t think she would live to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary, which was seven months away. She reached that milestone, however, and although many of the attendees thought that they were not only celebrating, but saying goodbye to Augustine, she not only continued to live, but got stronger and healthier.
Mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the mesothelium—a thin membrane surrounding the lungs and covering the inside of the chest cavity—usually claims the lives of its victims within two years of diagnosis. Many patients live only a few months after finding out that they are stricken with the cancer. Diagnosed in some 3,000 new patients each year in the United States, this disease is generally caused to long-term occupational exposure to asbestos, a toxic building material that was once prized and widely used because of its strength and resistance to high heat and fire.
Although asbestos has mostly been phased out of new construction and product manufacturing, cases of mesothelioma continue to rise because the disease has a long latency period—it can take up to 50 years to become symptomatic and then be diagnosed. Although radiation and chemotherapy can be used to treat the cancer, surgery is not often an option because of the mesothelioma’s advanced stage.
Augustine was deemed too weak to withstand the rigors of any traditional medical treatment, however, and so her family turned to alternative therapies. She worked with a doctor who specialized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and tried a variety of holistic treatments over the next two years. Then she began taking an herb that, in her words, had a “miraculous” effect. The herb, part of the Brazilian paw paw plant, has been touted by some practitioners as an anti-viral, anti-parasitic and anti-cancer therapy. It also has tranquilizing and sedative properties.
Although Augustine was skeptical at first, she finally decided that she had nothing left to lose, and within a month she began seeing gradual improvements in her health. First she could get out of her easy chair without help. Then she was able to walk around the backyard, then to a neighbor’s. She is now able to drive and to attend events in the community, and she credits it all to the paw paw supplement.
Every mesothelioma patient is different, and will respond differently to various treatment. If you have been diagnosed with this rare, severe form of cancer, it’s important to consult with your oncologist regarding your treatment plan, and to choose a plan which is calculated to provide the maximum benefit to your individual case.